Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), 12 March 2015: 'Dutch do a U-turn on metadata laws'

Thursday, 26 March 2015

"A judge in the Netherlands has struck down a Dutch law that forces local telcos to store customer internet and phone metadata.

The law is similar to legislation being proposed by the Abbott government.

The ruling by a judge in The Hague on Wednesday followed a similar decision in April by the European Union's top court that wiped out EU data collection legislation it deemed too broad and offering too few privacy safeguards.

The judge said that while the metadata retention law helped solve crimes, it also breached the privacy of telephone and internet users.

The Dutch Justice and Security Ministry said it was considering an appeal.

Under the Dutch law, telephone companies were required to store information about all fixed and mobile phone calls for a year. Internet providers had to store information on their clients' internet use for six months.

The written judgment by Judge G. P. van Ham conceded that scrapping the data storage "could have far-reaching consequences for investigating and prosecuting crimes" but added that this could not justify the privacy breaches the law entails.

The judge did not set a deadline for disposing of the data.

The ruling follows Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull telling the bosses of news organisations concerned about journalists' sources being exposed that Australia's data retention bill was being overblown as an issue.

The government wants the bill legislated by the end of this month.

The minister, who began meeting the bosses this week, said his message to them was that law enforcement and security authorities already had access to metadata and there were no exemptions for journalists.

"The only thing the data retention law is requiring is that types of metadata which are currently retained will be retained in the future for at least two years," Mr Turnbull told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

"This whole metadata retention issue has been overblown by a lot of people; the changes are not as substantial as people make out."

The Dutch ruling also comes as Prime Minister Tony Abbott's office began offering briefings to media organisations with Australian Federal Police officials in an attempt to calm their concerns. The briefings are being arranged for several of Australia's most prominent media bosses before they front an inquiry examining the protection of journalists' sources on March 20, where they are expected to oppose Australia's data retention laws on the basis that they will result in journalists' sources being exposed in leak investigations.

The media bosses' concerns follow Britain rushing through guidelines for access to journalists' metadata after it was revealed that more than 600 applications in a three-year period were made for journalists' metadata by 19 different law enforcement agencies.

The Australian Federal Police has repeatedly refused to provide Fairfax Media with similar figures in Australia and recently refused to divulge the figure under freedom of information laws to another publication.

In the 2013-14 financial year, there were more than 500,000 disclosures of metadata to various agencies, including Centrelink, the Tax Office, Australia Post and traditional policing agencies.

Critics have described the Australian proposal as unnecessary, not proportionate, and a privacy violation.

The Australian journalists' union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said it would have a "chilling effect" on reporting.

But Mr Turnbull said the two-year retention period was vital for investigating crime and terrorism.

After the Dutch ruling, Privacy First, one of the organisations that took the Dutch government to court, said the ruling would "bring to an end years of massive privacy breaches" in the Netherlands.

In a written statement, the Dutch Justice and Security Ministry said it regretted the court's decision.

"Providers are no longer required to store data for investigations," the statement said. "The ministry is seriously concerned about the effect this will have on fighting crime.""

Source:, 12 March 2015.

Our Partners

logo Voys Privacyfirst
logo greenhost
logo platfrm
logo AKBA
logo boekx
logo brandeis
banner ned 1024px1
logo demomedia
Pro Bono Connect logo
privacy coalitie deelnemer

Follow us on Twitter

twitter icon

Follow our RSS-feed

rss icon

Follow us on LinkedIn

linked in icon

Follow us on Facebook

facebook icon